It has been noted this week by numerous sport news outlets that the Oakland Athletics’ team chemistry was ultimately their downfall this year. From numerous new personalities to veterans who demonstrated poor leadership skills, the A’s front office publicly acknowledges this flaw. They have also stated that many of the changes that will be taking place this upcoming offseason will be directly related to improving the team chemistry.
It must be noted that it is not just one person’s fault for the team not meshing. Yes, the front office did bring in many new players for the 2015 season. However, as Stephen Vogt stated in Susan Slusser’s article in the San Francisco Chronicle, it was also the fact that the team was struggling for the majority of the season. When a fairly new team struggles right off the bat, the chances of natural camaraderie developing is low. Usually, teams come together more when they are winning.
However, it is comforting to know that some of the younger guys have established friendships and essentially created a core group of players that the team can be built around. This group would include Mark Canha, Billy Burns, and Marcus Semien. Despite having a losing season, it is nice to see that some of the players still came together.
Now that the A’s have a core rookie group, they will most likely focus on gaining some veteran players who are also well respected leaders. This seems to be the big issue here. It will be interesting to see who stays and who goes from the A’s current roster since not many players are free agents. Oakland’s moves this offseason could be very telling as to who may not be clicking as well with the rest of the team.
If the Oakland Athletics want to make sure that their team gels in 2016, my first inclination as a former camp counselor is that they are going to need to implement some team building exercises into their spring training schedule. For example, the clubhouse talent show they put together every year is a great way to bring the players together. If they had more bonding activities like team paintball, which the A’s Double-A affiliate the Midland RockHounds did together this season, or backyard BBQs where everyone’s families could attend, it would definitely help them come together.
Additionally, the players who do stay need to re-adjust their attitudes. They cannot think of themselves as a last place team. If they think positively, the chances of them actually being successful next season are high. They do have a lot of talent on their roster, but they need to implement PACE (Positive Attitude Changes Everything) in order to actually make a difference next year.
This chemistry issue may have started all the way back when Yoenis Cespedes was traded in 2014, but the A’s are finally realizing that this has become a huge problem. This will definitely be a big focus this offseason and during spring training in March. However, it must be noted that there will be a fine line when it comes to trying to improve the chemistry by making roster changes. While some small changes might not make any difference, too changes may cause a repeat of what happened this season.